Borough President Marty Markowitz has written a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo urging him to rescind the decision by the State Department of Transportation to terminate environmental studies for the rehabilitation of the Gowanus and Brooklyn Heights portions of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, which would have the effect of postponing any major reconstruction or replacement of these roadways indefinitely. According to Markowitz’s letter:
As a result of these project terminations, all plans for improved capacity or highway replacements have been effectively shelved for decades. This means that the current egregiously negative environmental impacts that these antiquated and crumbling highways have on the thousands of Brooklynites who live near them—or on the millions of roadway users who must travel on them while facing near-constant congestion—will not be substantively addressed for a generation or more. This is absolutely unacceptable and an insult to the residents of Brooklyn, Staten Island, Queens, and New Jersey who live or work near these structures or depend on them to access the region’s commercial core.
Additionally, the termination of these two projects constitutes a colossal waste of time and money. The Gowanus EIS began in 1997 and the EIS for the Cantilever section of the BQE began in 2008. Since then, literally thousands of hours of time by public participants and city and state employees has been invested in stakeholder meetings and in the scoping and planning process. Additionally, millions of dollars have been spent on contracts, data collection, engineers, outreach, and everything else that accompanies environmental review. Terminating these projects tosses nearly all that public money and time away.
Markowitz notes that, in addition to the economic importance of the highway as a route for travel, commutation and commerce, the existing highway structures have negative effects on both public health, because of the fumes generated by stalled traffic, and the value of nearby real estate. He writes that it ought to “be a state and national priority to overhaul and replace these antiquated structures.” He concludes:
I urge your administration to reverse the decision to terminate these projects. You have recently proposed funding infrastructure through the expansion of public-private partnerships including the use of pension fund investments to pay for our roadways and bridges. Although the details of your proposal need to be finalized, I believe it is a great start and should be used to immediately address Brooklyn’s I-278. Additionally, I request that your administration open a new dialogue with other elected officials at the City, State, and Federal levels to find opportunities to revive and continue these projects to the fulfillment of their expressed goals of solving the current traffic, economic, and environmental nightmare they create.
I look forward to receiving a positive response on this matter.
Update: State Senator Daniel Squadron has also asked the Governor to reinstate the BQE study, using funds from the infrastructure bill that just passed the Senate:
I’m asking Governor Cuomo to invest some of that money right here in the district — by moving forward with the rehabilitation of the BQE, funding an incentive program for Lower Manhattan businesses to become more energy efficient, and helping City Tech build a new academic center that will be a resource at the gateway to Brooklyn, while providing even greater opportunities for striving New Yorkers.